Kadima seeks gov't without Likud, Labor

Netanyahu's appeal: Vote Likud 'even if you have a personal problem with me'.

kadima 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
kadima 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will build a coalition without relying on Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu or Labor chairman Amir Peretz if Kadima continues rising in the polls, sources close to Olmert revealed on Thursday. Following the successful IDF raid in Jericho, Kadima rose by two seats to between 36 and 37 and Likud fell by two to three to 15, according to a Smith Research poll sponsored by The Jerusalem Post that was conducted on Wednesday, the day after the operation. The Likud, which led Labor in the polls a few weeks ago, fell into a distant third place, three to four seats behind Labor's 18-19 mandates. Other polls conducted after the Jericho operation showed Kadima climbing to as much as 43 seats, the Likud rising to no more than 16 and Labor falling to an embarrassingly low 14 mandates. But Kadima officials said they were unsatisfied with the polls because they indicated that Olmert might not be able to form his ideal coalition with Israel Beiteinu, Shas and United Torah Judaism and without Likud and Labor. Such a coalition would allow Kadima to keep the Foreign Affairs, Defense, Finance and Education portfolios. Kadima officials ruled out asking Meretz to join the coalition, leaving Likud or Labor as the only remaining alternatives for Kadima to build a stable government. Asked which of the two was preferable, sources close to Olmert said it depended on whether the two parties would replace their current leader. "It depends on who goes home first, Bibi or Peretz," an Olmert associate said. "A second consideration will be which of the two parties is larger. But if they are the same size and their leaders remain, it would be better to start off with Likud in the government and then go to Labor if Likud leaves the coalition." The Likud issued a statement on Thursday saying that Netanyahu was elected democratically "unlike in Kadima where there is no democracy" and accusing Kadima of "trying to interfere with the Likud using political spin." In new Likud election commercials set to begin on Saturday night, Netanyahu will appeal to former Likud voters to "come home even if you have a personal problem with me." In an Army Radio interview, Netanyahu explained the polls by saying that "they were taken after the immediate impact of the operation in Jericho, but this effect will pass in a day or two when people will remember the real issues at hand in the race." Peretz noted an investigation into the professionalism of polling firms that was broadcast last month, and he accused them of "helping one party at the expense of the others." "The time has come for us to stop paying attention to the pollsters," Peretz said. "I will prove the pollsters wrong again." A low turnout in the March 28 race is expected to help parties on the Right, while a higher turnout could help Kadima and the Left. Kadima officials said they would make an extra effort ahead of the election to attract support in sectors where the party is considered weak, including Arabs, immigrants and kibbutzniks. "Kadima has no greater rival than the polls, because they encourage complacency that will help Netanyahu and the extreme Right," Kadima strategist Lior Chorev said. "The battle hasn't been decided yet. We need people to come out to vote so there will be a strong Kadima to allow the party to have enough power to run the country."